Of all the legends about Scotland, none is more famous than the Loch Ness Monster or Nessie, which is reported to inhabit Loch Ness in the Highlands.

Nessie is a cryptid, which in cryptozoology and sometimes in cryptobotany (from the Greek “κρύπτω” (krypto) meaning “hide”) is a creature or plant whose existence has been suggested but is not yet recognized by scientific consensus. Famous examples include the Yeti in the Himalayas, the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, and Sasquatch in North America.

The earliest report of a monster associated with the vicinity of Loch Ness appears in the Life of St. Columba by Adomnán, written in the 7th century.

According to Adomnán, writing about a century after the events he described, the Irish monk Saint Columba was staying in the land of the Picts with his companions when he came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man had been swimming the river when he was attacked by a “water beast” that had mauled him and dragged him under. They tried to rescue him in a boat, but were able only to drag up his corpse. Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by sending his follower Luigne moccu Min to swim across the river. The beast came after him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded: “Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.” The beast immediately halted as if it had been “pulled back with ropes” and fled in terror, and both Columba’s men and the pagan Picts praised God for the miracle.

The oldest manuscript relating to this story was put online in 2012.

Believers in the Loch Ness Monster often point to this story, which notably takes place on the River Ness rather than the loch itself, as evidence for the creature’s existence as early as the 6th century. However, sceptics question the narrative’s reliability, noting that water-beast stories were extremely common in medieval saints’ Lives; as such, Adomnán’s tale is likely a recycling of a common motif attached to a local landmark.

Nessie’s worldwide fame began on 2nd May 1933

when Alex Campbell, the water bailiff for Loch Ness and a part-time journalist, reported a sighting of Nessie in the Inverness Courier.

On 4 August 1933, the Courier reported another sighting by a London man, George Spicer, who had been motoring around the Loch with his wife.  George Spicer said that he had seen the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that he had ever seen in his life, trundling across the road toward the Loch carrying an animal in its mouth.  

Other letters began appearing in the Courier, often anonymously, with claims of land or water sightings, either on the writer’s part or on the parts of family, acquaintances or stories they remembered being told.These stories soon reached the national, and later the international press, which described a ‘monster fish’, ‘sea serpent’, or ‘dragon’, eventually settling on “Loch Ness Monster.’

On 6th December 1933 the first purported photograph of the monster, taken by Hugh Gray,

hugh grays photo

was published in the Daily Express, and shortly after the creature received official notice when the Secretary of State for Scotland ordered the police to prevent any attacks on it.

In 1934, interest was further sparked by what is known as The Surgeon’s Photograph.


In the same year R. T. Gould published a book, the first of many that describe the author’s personal investigation and collected record of additional reports pre-dating 1933. Other authors have claimed that sightings of the monster go as far back as the 6th century (see below).Evidence of its existence is anecdotal, with minimal and much-disputed photographic material and sonar readings.

How can such a large creature evade capture?

Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch which is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area at 56.4 km2 (21.8 sq mi) after Loch Lomond, but due to its great depth, it is the largest by volume.

Its deepest point is 230 m (755 ft),deeper than the height of London’s BT Tower at 189 m (620 ft) and deeper than any other loch except Loch Morar. It contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined,and is the largest body of water on the Great Glen Fault, which runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south.

So it’s certainly big enough. However, whether Nessie exists or not, one thing is certain, its fame has  catapulted it into legendary status .


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